Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turn Out the Lights, The Party's Over

When you're birthday is August 24, your party options are somewhat limited to one of two things: 1. Something indoors or 2. Something with water.

For the third year running, we had a big water party for Aidan's birthday, inviting all of his friends over to play in the yard and celebrate his birthday. We usually have his party the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, but because Brandon and I will be in China over Labor Day, we thought it best to reschedule the party. Frankly, I just don't trust the kids to throw a suitable party.

And honestly, I didn't have anything else I needed to be doing mere days before leaving for China for 2 and a half weeks. The calender was wide open.

My Aidan got to pick the menu for the party, which included crucial elements such as four types of Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids, and strawberries.

And a cake with a tank on it. I love my Aidan, so so much. He is like no one else.

I somehow managed to rent the biggest water slide in Houston for the party, a slide that took up my entire backyard, from the back fence almost to the house. And needless to say, it was a hit.

The kids played on the slide until the slide-guys came and took it away later that evening.
Aidan LOVED all the presents he got, and I was reminded how fortunate we are to have friends who love us and who know my boy perfectly. There were nerf guns, several lego sets, Hot Wheels, remote control cars, sidewalk chalk, and a green gerbil who apparently is "like a zhu-zhu pet but manlier", according to one of his friends.

The kids played on the slide until the slide-guys came to take it away later that evening,

Aidan blew out all the candles on his cake with a tank with just a few tries, while his cousin Joel and all of his friends from church looked on.
Happy birthday, Aidan Cooper! I think 5 is going to be a great year for you.

And now I better start packing, since we leave for China TOMORROW MORNING!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Aidan's Prayer Last Night

Dear God,

Thank you for Jesus dying on the cwoss, and thank you for the dead guy when he was dwiving his caw and went to pawk and bonked into the other caw and when he opened his door he just got squished and squirted evewywhere and landed in the big pile of ants. Amen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Day of First Grade

Last Sunday morning my Dane woke up early and joined me for my morning coffee and we had a sweet talk before everyone else woke up. Last weekend I was a tad bit emotional about my big boy going back to school. It may or may not be a little bit because we are preparing to leave our three children for 2+ weeks to travel to the other side of the world to bring our other child home. Because I haven't been the least bit emotional about that.

I so, so love having the kids out of school. I'm not a huge fan of having to keep the school schedule, having Dane there at a certain time in the morning, and absolutely having to be home at 3:30 every afternoon to collect him off the bus. We also have had a very, very busy August. So I snuggled with my big boy, and asked him on Sunday morning, "Do you know what tomorrow is?"

"Umm, church?" he replied.

"...No." The boy shrugged his shoulders. And I realized that he honestly had no idea that school was about to start back up. We had bought backpacks and school supplies, met the teacher, and talked about it several times, and it just snuck up on him. I know the feeling, Dane-o. Your mommy understands.

It snuck up on me too.

But ready or not, the first day of school waits for no one.

I L-O-V-E Dane's teacher this year, Mrs. G (not to be confused with Miss G, his kindergarten teacher). I think he's going to have a great year. The other day he got to use his reward tickets (or something, I haven't quite figured it all out yet) to keep a special stuffed animal with him at his desk for four hours. Stuffed animals are one of Dane's love languages. So far the homework he has brought home has been very easy and basic for him, he's ready to get to the good stuff, and he's a little concerned that all the books in his classroom are "early readers, Mom!"

It's been a great first week of first grade, and I think it will be a big year for the Dane-o.
If we can get him there on time, that is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview with A Five Year Old

*Warning: the following post has been hijacked by Brandon.

Mandy has been crazy busy working her tail off in order to financially give birth to our soon to be adopted Chinese daughter, Emerson (a.k.a. "Tiny Dragon"). When she is not in the ER saving lives and being all heroic, she is working her way through endless lists of travel plans and documentation, and figuring out how to get our children cared for while we are in China for two weeks...needless to say, she has been kinda swamped. So she asked me to step in and help her interview Aidan for his fifth birthday...buckle your seat belts, it's gonna be a wild ride.

Dad: Aidan, what can you do when you are five that you can't do when you're three?
Aidan: You couldn't jump higher than a brick. (Huh?) I couldn't jump over handlebars when I was four.
Dad: Can you do that know?
Aidan: No (Looks at Dad like he is crazy)...but I will when I am five (Tomorrow).

Dad: What was your favorite part about being four?
Aidan: The part at school when I jumped over five kids standing up.
Dad: Aidan!? (Incredulous)
Aidan: What (Arms out defensively)...I did...the teachers told me I had to.
(Dad secretly thinks, "Wow, that's my kind of school!")

Dad: What is going to happen at your birthday party this Sunday?
Aidan: Ummm...there will be a big water slide, a little water slide, and a teeny water slide for Harper and all the other babies (All the other babies? I'll try to love them like my own). I even want a baby swimming pool for her. Ummm...we will eat cake, have fun with friends, open presents ALL DAY, play with my toys...all my friends like Bwian (Actual name: Ryan) like to play with toys, even blue ones. Ummm...play games and stuff, but not Pokemon Rumble - that is just for me and Dane...everybody else can just watch.

Dad: What is your favorite song Aidan?
Aidan: (Instantly breaks into song) "Happy Birthday JESSSSUUUUUSSSS! (This is a Christmas song from school that he loves, but he instantly begins making up his own version from here on out) I'm so glad it's your BIRTHDAAAAAAYYYYY! And the people and friends and everybody and Dane." (He stops singing) I like the part of the song when they sing about the presents and gifts and candy and everything (Do you really need to be told that no such part exists?).

Dad: Aidan, what was your favorite part of this year?
Aidan: Like in the summer...the part when we made the whole garden.
Dad: What do you think of the garden now?
Aidan: (He goes to the window and peaks out at the garden) It looks like it is dead.
(It does look like a veggie graveyard, but did he have to say it with so coldly?)

Dad: What is your favorite bible story?
Aidan: David and Goliath.
Dad: Why?
Aidan: Because it has lots of fights and stuff...and a big fight with David and Goliath.
Dad: Tell me about it.
Aidan: This little kid named David won...he slung the slingshot with five stones at Goliath's head. Then he died.
Dad: Who died - David or Goliath?
Aidan: Ummm....Goliath (Very uncertain)? He dropped his sword and his shield and his spear and then fell over on the ground and went CRAAAASSSSHHHH! And David said, "Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray (All this is done in impromptu song form)." And then David became king in the palace. Then king Solomon (Actually Saul, but close) got angrier and angrier and angrier and told his guards, "Get that king (David)!" But they just didn't listen. Then he went and threw a spear at David and David ran off. Then Prince John (I'm assuming he means Jonathan, not the guy from the Robin Hood story) and his sister Princess Loveheart (Your guess is as good as mine)...and then the prince kid died in battle...and when he died, David took care of his little brother. Then David and John prayed together and they asked King Saul to listen to God...then they made a plan about when John was at the party. He would shoot arrows to tell David it was okay, but one arrow went behind the rocks and the others didn't...(At this point, Aidan starts complaining of an upset tummy and just drops the story...which if you know anything about the story of David, was an amazingly accurate and detailed account for a five year old to spout off)

And thus concludes my interview with my favorite five year old. Most people just assume that A-Man is my little clone, but after writing out this interview...I can definitely see some of his mom in there. Evidence? A: He has every minute of his birthday party planned out completely, down to specific water activities for "all the babies" that will be there...that is SO Mandy. B: He spares no emotion in his cold and calculating assessment of the dead garden in the backyard...a garden which he claims is the best things about the past year in his life. Where is the sense of nostalgia? Where are the tears shed for a family garden in its death throes? Again, the heartlessness of it all is SO Mandy. (If you don't already know, I am the sensitive, emotional, ninny of the family...Mandy is the no-nonsense ER nurse that doesn't pass out at the sight of blood, bone, brain matter, etc.) C: Aidan has an incredible memory for details, as you may have noticed in the story of King David. He routinely blows our minds by recalling some random detail from some random event totally out of the blue. And if any of you know me - attention to details...not really my strong suit. That is SO Mandy!

On the other hand, he is obsessed with jumping over stuff, tells wild stories, exaggerates everything, randomly breaks into song, loves video games, has an unhealthy attraction to violence and looks EXACTLY like me...so I would say Aidan is about 80% Dad, 20% Mom, but that 20% is going to make him a better man than I'll ever be. Happy birthday Aidan - you are one of the most interesting, unique people I've ever had the privilege to meet and I cannot wait to see the incredible things you do with your life. I love you A-baby!

(Actually this is BRANDON, but this signature is stuck at the bottom of the page and I don't know how to get it off!!!)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turns Out, It IS Rocket Science

*This is the last vacation recap. I promise. Last recap FOREVER.

Thursday morning we loaded up the van, said goodbye to Galveston and the beach and "that guy with all the clothes on in the pool", and headed back to the mainland to the NASA Space Center. We decided to take the scenic route instead of the interstate, unaware at the time that the only scenery between Galveston and NASA consists of oil refineries and the oldest gas station known to man. The irony of almost running out of gas in front of the oil refinery was not lost on us.

We came upon the Space Center from the east this time, instead of from the interstate to the west, and turned into what we thought was the NASA Space Center entrance. The boys were very excited about seeing the Star Wars exhibit, playing laser tag, and watching the "fire show". My first clue that perhaps we had arrived at the wrong place was the beefy armed security guard at the gate wearing the bullet proof vest. They instantly pegged us as "not rocket scientists" and sent us on down the road to the visitor's center. I thought about getting offended that he just assumed we weren't there to work at NASA, but then I noticed the wayward Buc-ee's Beaver Nugget on the front of my husband's "Save a Tuna, Eat a Dolphin" t-shirt. And all the kids in the backseat were probably a dead giveaway, too.

Fortunately, it was only a chilly 90 degrees when we finally got to the visitor's center, so Harper and I sent the boys on a tram tour so we could scope out the gift shop in peace. Because look what Harper picked out to buy for her mommy?
It's pink. It's sparkly. And I'm sure it's an actual relic from some outer space mission, where they kept their space coffee. There have been girl astronauts, right? I learned so, so much from my day at NASA.

The boys got on the tram with a few minutes to kill before leaving, which left me with several pictures that looked like this:

(Don't worry, Dane got a hair cut before he started school today.)

And this little booger:

And of course this:

And that was all before Dane got ahold of the camera.

Finally the tour started, and the boys were treated to classic NASA sights such as the Space Longhorns. What are cows doing at NASA?

I'm hoping this one was taken with a zoom lens, because none of my three boys need to be this close to the fuel. I have to confess, I saw this Liquid Nitrogen tank and I instantly thought to myself, "that's what they use to freeze warts off with at the doctor's office." This could be why we did not see a single wart on a single astronaut in any of the exhibits on our visit.

By the time they got to the good part of the tour, my boys were OVER the picture taking. Don't they look thrilled?

They came back from the tour, just in time for all of the fun and line-waiting to commence. Ugh. If I weren't so determined to "get our money's worth", the crowds of people would have sent me running for the van then and there. The boys played laser tag, walked through a house of mirrors, and "climbed" a little rock climbing wall. Harper got to join in when they all went to play in the 40 foot-tall indoor play area, but she was content to stay with her daddy in the little baby area while the boys saved the world 30 feet above her.

Before we left, Dane and Aidan wanted to ride the simulation game, and get to wear the cool goggles. I'm pretty sure Aidan didn't care what he was looking at through the goggles, he just wanted to wear them.

And of course, a picture of three of my rocket scientists in front of the character cut-outs, which one of these three may or may not have asked if they could have for their bedroom when NASA was done with them.
I'm sorry, Brandon, maybe they'll let you keep one next year.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sparkling Clear Water of Galveston Beach

(Part Four of the Three Day Vacation That Never Ends...)

After stuffing ourselves silly with all manor of candies and chocolate malts at LaKing's, we headed to the Galveston seawall to scope out the beach. After dinner, right before the sun goes down is the best time to go to the beach. The crowds are gone, the heat is gone, no need for sunscreen, and you can find a decent parking spot on the street.

Little known fact about Brandon and me: we hate crowds of people. Amusement parks on a Saturday, the movies on Friday nights, the beach during the day, traffic during rush hour, shopping on tax free weekend. We'd just rather stay home and not do it than fight the crowds of people. I have been known to grocery shop at 6:30am and I know what time my favorite retailers open in the morning. A couple of years ago we went to the Houston Children's Museum on a weekday in the fall, only to arrive and learn it was "Museum Day", offering free admission. I think we lasted for about an hour before we had to leave before we all lost our minds. We've gotten into a habit of doing fun things in the mornings and during the week to avoid all of the throngs of people. Amazon.com has become my best friend.

And the beach in summertime? A definite must at 7:30pm on a Wednesday.

It would have been much harder to take horrible pictures of my family if lots of people had been around.

This picture of the four of them was much easier to take last year at the beach.

This year, we had two adventurous boys and one water baby who did not want to sit still.

My boys...

And my girl with her daddy
And yes, I know the arm floaties were ridiculous for her. She never even got in water past her waist, and I was the paranoid mommy hovering so that those horribly dangerous waist deep undertows didn't carry Harper girl out to the sea.
I'm pretty sure these three would still be in the water, four days later, had we not made them leave.

See you next year, Galveston beach!

Next up, Mini-Cation That Never Ends: The Final Recap

Saturday, August 21, 2010

LaKing's for LaPrincess

Mini-Cation 2010 continues...

After visiting the Blue Bell factory where we ate ice cream for lunch, we hit the road and started heading towards Galveston, where the grossest hotel swimming pool in the history of the world was waiting for us (and apparently, a fully clothed homeless man) to swim in it. You know the pool is gross, if you look at the Galveston beach and marvel about how clear and pretty the water is. We couldn't see our feet at the bottom of the pool. In the shallow end. I shudder a little just thinking about it.

I had to take a picture of what Harper did to the air conditioner in the hotel room. I want to apologize to the housekeeper for any lurking strawberries in the room that I didn't catch.

After our near death experience at the hands of whatever mystery creatures may or may not have been lurking at the bottom of the hotel pool, we all cleaned up and headed out for an early dinner of slightly-better-than-average Italian food, leaving a little room for dessert.

Where does one go for dessert in Galveston? LaKing's Confectionary, of course.

I went in with the boys while Brandon put Harper's shoes on in the van and brought her inside.
Except he didn't put her shoes on, and brought her inside barefoot. Awesome. We almost got away with it because it is Galveston, and the lady who walked in before us was wearing a bikini top.

I was almost the proud owner of this lollipop display when Harper decided to almost pull it down,
but then her daddy distracted her with a chocolate malt.

Harper even shared some of her chocolate malt with the rest of us, so sweet.
No rest for the weary, we still had a little daylight left, and we were going to spend it at the beach!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where They Eat All They Can and Sell the Rest

(*Note: the next couple of posts are recaps of our family mini-cation, so I can have something to show my children several years from now as proof that yes, we did, leave the house on occasion. Vacation pictures tend to be boring for everyone who wasn't there, so proceed at your own risk.)

Wednesday of this past week our mini-cation proceeded to Mecca. The mother ship. The Holy Land of Texas ice cream. When I was growing up at the Sloan house, Blue Bell was King. Of the freezer anyway. Blue Bell ice cream originated in a little creamery in Brenham many years ago, and the factory offers a tour for visitors all day every day. They take 50 people every 10 minutes for a walk-thru of the plant, ending with a scoop of ice cream. I had a scoop of Southern Blackberry Cobbler flavor, and it has changed my life forever. Ice cream has actually gone bad because it has sat too long in my freezer on more than one occasion, but I think the Southern Blackberry Cobbler would be safe from that untimely demise.

(Sidenote: a friend of ours moved from Texas to California, aka Land Where Blue Bell Doesn't Go. However, Outback Steakhouse has Blue Bell on their dessert menu, and un-named friend talked the manager into selling him a three-gallon barrel of Homemade Vanilla so he could get his ice cream fix in Cali. I know some Sloan family members who think my friend is an absolute genius.)

They don't allow pictures on the tour, but fortunately we arrived a few minutes early and wandered around their this-would-be-beautiful-if-it-wasn't-110-degrees outdoor grounds.

Fortunately, we found a cow statue that Dane wanted to sit on.

Until he realized that the statue hadn't been frozen in Blue Bell's deep freeze, and it, too, was 110 degrees.
But can you see the wheels turning in Brandon's head? It's like he was just waiting for the old ladies behind us looking at the statue to move along now, there's nothing to see here.
The father of my children, folks.
A forced picture of me and the boys, who were SO OVER the picture taking by this point:
Yes, that is a lei on Dane's neck. Before we left on our trip a few days ago, Dane put it on and proclaimed it to be his "Vacation Necklace" and wore it just about everywhere for the entire time we were gone. Also, I'm never overly concerned with what clothes the boys are wearing, and I let them pack their own bags for the trip. That's why they may look a little homeless in a lot of our pictures.

And look who else went with us! Another little ice cream fan came along for the tour, and she had herself a big time sharing our ice cream and modeling the free paper hats.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Family Mini-Cation picture taking extravaganza, alternatively titled: They Really Shouldn't Have the AC Controls Low Enough for Harper to Reach Them.